Twin Cities Business looks at the digital divide in Minnesota, especially in a COVID (post-COVID?) world..
In fact, a study early in the pandemic by Common Sense Media and Kids Action showed that more than 150,000 Minnesota students lacked the devices needed to connect to remote schooling, and another 250,000 lacked access to the internet. Communities of color, rural families, and students in tribal nations are disproportionately affected because of higher poverty rates in these Minnesota populations.
The digital divide can be documented far beyond the rural parts of Minnesota. It includes many urban and suburban families, children, and adults who are not connected, nor do they have the devices to do so.
They also look at some of the efforts in Minnesota striving to close the gap and/or keep the gap shallow…
ConnectedMN is an alliance of philanthropic, business, and government organizations that distributes grant money to nonprofits to support access to devices, connectivity, and computer training in specific regions and among targeted communities. …
Standalone nonprofits, including PCs for People and Tech Dump, profiled in this issue as winners of TCB Community Impact Awards, get computers into the hands of people who need them and ensure that recipients have the connectivity and training to use them. In 2021, PCs for People provided 55,000 computers to low-income Minnesotans and helped 18,000 people with internet connectivity.
[Thanks to PC for People for a correction: they distributed over 57,000 computers and did connect over 18,000 households, but that was national, not just Minnesota. Added June 18.]
Philanthropies such as the Blandin Foundation in Grand Rapids have worked for years on broadband access for Minnesotans. Blandin’s early advocacy and sustained efforts began back in 2003. Its overarching goal: “Everyone in Minnesota will be able to use convenient, affordable, world-class broadband networks that enable us to survive and thrive in our communities and across the globe.”
The Blandin on Broadband blog on the foundation’s website incorporates important updates on the availability of federal funds to support access projects in rural counties, such as the new federal ReConnect program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That program aims to distribute grants and loans for eligible rural communities that want to provide broadband service to local residents.
Long-term efforts like Blandin’s, collaboratives like ConnectedMN, nonprofits like PCs for People, and government investments such as the federal infrastructure act are all helping to accelerate change for low-income, rural, and tribal communities that have long needed such help.